When I arrive there are crowds of early risers waiting out the countdown to cancellations of service in mute pockets of steam from polymer cups. The young guy behind the counter of Pret-a-Manger rubs his eye with the heel of his hand and asks me if I want a bag. My tongue is morning numb so I nod and try to smile. The mobile buzzes in my pocket.
The tea is lukewarm by the time I remember it. The lid clicks off and the air fills with the smell of cardboard. The electronic boards loom overhead, blink and sift to the left. I re-thread the words of apology together in my brain.
Not. Fault. My. Storm. Ahead. Warning. So.
One edge of the shoulder strap is fraying, it caught in a door, years ago. When I zipped up before dawn I thought again it’s going to snap. Nothing lasts forever. There’s plastic woven into the fabric, alternating scratch with softness against my thumb. The eight ten to Aberdeen accepts defeat; the woman at the table next to me huffs and scrapes her chair back.
Only travel if it’s essential.
A small child crying into her Rice Krispies. Drinks with the neighbours. Archie’s carol service.
You. Down. Me. Always. Let.
“Might as well swim it, mate.” He leans closer, swipes the discarded lid. “Finished with that?”
Before I can agree, he moves on, humping a clear plastic bag along the wet-streaked floor. I could go south for the winter, I could stay here. I can’t change this.
Finished. This. I. With. Am.